By Curt Wagner
6:59 AM CDT, April 11, 2012
You may not want to wait to see James Van Der Beek in ABC's new comedy "Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 23," but don't let the inconsistent premiere turn you away.
The former "Dawson's Creek" hunk provides much of the charm and limited punch lines until "Apartment 23" (8:30 p.m. April 11, ABC; 2.5 stars) starts to find its way in later episodes.
When June (Dreama Walker) moves to New York for a job at a big investment bank she discovers the FBI closing the place down and arresting the boss for a Bernie Madoff-like scam. Her first day turns out to be her last, leaving June and all her belongings on the sidewalk in front of a coffee shop.
But June won't be sent packing back to Indiana--it's just not in her life plan--which leads her to Apartment 23 and Chloe (Krysten Ritter), a scam artist who has created the perfect con. After landing a roomie, Chloe turns into a lying, stealing sociopath so that her roommates move out and she pockets their inflated rent money. Eli (Michael Blaiklock), the snoopy perv in the apartment next door, only adds to her roomies' hell.
June is warned about the "B" by Robin (Liza Lapira), the quirky neighbor down the hall, but June falls for Chloe's charms anyway. Before you can say "I'll cut a bitch," Chloe seduces June's fiance--supposedly to help her see he's a cheater. June, of course, isn't the shrinking violet Chloe perceives her to be. She's forced to fight back with her own cruel tricks.
Even with a few inspired moments, I found the pilot to be tedious and cold-hearted. Next week's episode improves by leaps thanks to the larger presence of Van Der Beek, who plays a heightened version of himself. "The Beek From the Creek," as his BFF Chloe nicknames him, is a self-absorbed has-been trying to hold on to his former glory by competing in "Dancing With the Stars" and seducing two female fans to the "Dawson's Creek" theme song "I Don't Want to Wait."
Although this gimmick has been done before by Matt LeBlanc ("Episodes"), Larry David ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") and Ricky Gervais ("Extras"), Van Der Beek pretty much nails it.
His shtick could get old, though, as could the odd-couple friendship between chaos-loving Chloe and sweet, naive June. It remains to be seen how much mileage creator Nahnatchka Khan can get from having Chloe continually dupe June. (However, I applaud Khan's resistance to relying on constant put-downs to find laughs like CBS' "2 Broke Girls" does.)
"Apartment 23" works best when June turns the tables on Chloe, like in the third episode when the Beek attends a wedding with one of the roommates and some marvelous mayhem ensues--so there may be more to the premise than meets the eye Wednesday.
I'm not sure we can trust "Apartment 23" will continue to improve, but at least by the third episode things get better for June--and for viewers.
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